Last week the president of the EU's Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, visited Bulgaria to assess the National Plan for Reconstruction and Sustainability. During her visit she met with the Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, representatives of Sofia University and also some members of the startup ecosystem in the country, including Payhawk.
Last week I had the honor of meeting EU’s Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen. I never thought that as a CEO and co-founder of a SaaS company, I would have that privilege.
The purpose of Von der Leyen's visit was to give the green light to Bulgaria’s Recovery and Resilience Plan. A fraction of NextGenerationEU, the Commission's 2021-2027 Recovery Plan — worth EUR 800 billion — will help to repair the economic and social damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic and make the EU fit for the future.
Bulgaria’s allocation, a total of €6.3 billion —10% of the country’s GDP — will be distributed in grants over the next four years. More than 80% of the funds will be designated to the green and digital transition. The plan includes investments in digital connectivity, digital skills, the digitalization of public administration and businesses. This is where Payhawk comes in, and that’s why we gifted Ursula Von der Leyen, a custom metal card as a symbol of the transition.
We built Payhawk to solve one of the biggest pain-points for finance teams: managing expenses. We also realized that by implementing digital solutions across business functions such as Payhawk, companies of every size can make their operations greener and digital in an easy and affordable way.
One of our best customers ATU, Germany’s number one professional chain of auto retail stores and workshops, contacted us because they wanted to eliminate cash and become paperless in more than 500 branches. This meant becoming both digital and green. Not only were they able to reduce cash management, but also digitize all their invoices. Fun fact: before using Payhawk, ATU collected their invoices using trucks, which travelled around the country.
European SMEs are behind in their digital performance according to the DESI report. There are differences among EU member states but also within countries. Digitalization will allow companies to improve their productivity and competitiveness. It will also enable businesses to prepare for the digital wave and not get left behind.
Right now, businesses are stuck with legacy systems and cumbersome processes, which makes the transition almost impossible. We know this because our customers tell us so. But, change is always scary. Our goal is to support companies early on, in this changing environment.
Payhawk enables companies to digitize all company expenses in one single platform, pay employee reimbursements, and company bills instantly, and everything can be connected to your company’s accounting system or ERP.
Payhawk offers recycled PVC cards for customers, and we are partnering with Plan A to track and reduce our carbon emissions. In Q3, we will offer carbon emissions offsetting to our users, which is crucial considering that one of our major use cases is travelling employees. As travelling starts to pick up again, we want to integrate emissions calculations and quality carbon removal into our customer experience.
At the event with the EU Commission, other startups such as Dronamics and EnduroSat were present, which shows the maturity of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and is a testament to the value of the human capital in Bulgaria. We are the changemakers. We are helping the country and the region to become an innovation hub, and support public and private sectors in their digital and green transition.
Finally, the story of Payhawk becoming Bulgaria's first unicorn inspires other entrepreneurs to move forward and create outstanding products. I hear many times that Europe’s ecosystem has been less effective — than the United States — at turning start-ups into late-stage successes.
Maybe we were just a bit slower, but stay tuned, as more spiraling horns are coming.
Hristo is the compass guiding Payhawk's journey. With a rich background in engineering аnd product management he is a stalwart advocate for our products and customers, bringing a mix of innovation and user-centricity to everything we do. Outside the office, you'll catch him enjoying camper and sailing trips, shredding slopes on his snowboard, or simply soaking up precious moments with his family.